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General Information

UCSD provides a wealth of web-based resources for graduate students to identify, apply for, and obtain fellowships and academic awards. ORA's Funding and Academic Award Opportunities webpage has links to comprehensive funding databases and grant writing guides.

Another great source is the graduate funding blog graduate funding blog, where we post announcements of all different funding opportunities for graduate students and post-docs. If UCSD has an internal submission deadline for a fellowship, the deadline will be posted here. You can also get abbreviated versions of these announcements by following @UCSDGradFunding on Twitter.

Another great resource for finding graduate and postdoctoral funding is the UCLA GRAPES database. Their search form is very user-friendly.

Perhaps the most important database for you to learn to use is Pivot (the Community of Science). UCSD has a subscription that allows the UCSD community to access Pivot free of charge. Using an internet enabled computer with a UCSD IP address, you can browse Pivot's extensive library of more than 400,000 funding opportunities. Among the most useful features Pivot has to offer are (1) the ability to create an online searchable online curriculum vitae , (2) an automatic “BioSketch” feature that generates the PHS 398 form required any time you apply to the National Institutes of Health, and (3) the ability to create custom funding alerts that will send you an e-mail any time a new funding opportunity becomes available.

Once you've found an appropriate funding opportunity using these different resources, the next step is to write a winning grant application. Many graduate students find this part of the funding process to be time-consuming, difficult, quirky and downright mysterious. In reality, grant writing is all these and more.

Learning how to write successful grant applications is like learning any new skill. You'll need to invest some time studying, you'll need to practice, and most important, you'll want to enlist the help of a successful grant-writer in your field.

Remember that writing a grant or fellowship proposal is very different from writing an academic article. A funding proposal is a persuasive piece of writing; you’re trying to convince the reviewers that you or your project is worth funding. Therefore, your writing needs to be exciting! Use short sentences in plain language. Avoid jargon, particularly if your reviewers won’t be experts in your particular subfield. Focus mostly on your proposed actions; what will the money they give you enable you to do? While background and a literature review are important, don’t allot them too much space in your proposal. The bulk of your proposal should be a description of what will happen if the organization gives you money.

Be sure to start early; have a good first draft ready one month before the deadline at the very latest. This gives you plenty of time to revise and have others read and critique your proposal. Always have someone unfamiliar with your project (i.e., not your committee members) read your proposal and let you know which parts don’t make sense. If possible, get someone from an unrelated subfield of your discipline to read the proposal. Your reviewers won’t be familiar with your project going in, so it’s important to make sure that the proposal is clear to someone who’s never heard of your project before.

Above all, don’t be discouraged when you get your first rejection. Take a day or two to mourn, and then get back on the horse and apply for more funding! No one gets every award they apply for.

Good luck!